Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Day 15


October 20th

After two hours of sleep, I woke at 6am and frantically packed my gear. Not only did I have to pack my cameras, hard drives, computer, etc., but also the kayaks and all their gear (drysuits, neoprene skirts, poggie hand grips, life jackets, paddles, etc.). It's a good thing I hadn't brought many clothes. Even going to the Arctic, I had to prioritize what to bring since we had a weight limit. Cameras and kayaks took top priority.

Cinnamon BunsI raced around for a couple of hours, stopping once to gulp down our last breakfast cooked by Anna. I had to get drysuits back from both Audun and Amy Witta (a social scientist who was studying our responses to the environment).

The drysuits were mandatory for kayaking - they were hard to get on, but they kept the ice-cold water off your skin. Without them, a flip of the kayak (a very common occurance) would lead to hypothermia and probable death in under five minutes.

Amy had borrowed my drysuit a couple of times during the trip so that she could take a swim!! The first time she climbed down the ships ladder and swam out to an iceberg a few feet away. From that point on, if the weather permitted, we could usually find Amy floating around off shore or somewhere near the ship with a big smile on her face!

KayaksOnce everything was packed the lugging began. Jan helped me get the kayaks to land. I had made arrangements with a produce delivery truck driver to transport the kayaks the mile and a half (3km) back to the Svalbard Sailing Club.

I was lucky to find someone with a truck, without this lift, I would have had to carry the heavy kayaks by hand. The night before, I spotted the driver bringing pallets of food on board for the Noorderlicht's next trip to Tromso. I bolted up on deck and asked how big their truck was. Kindly, he didn't think I was a crazy woman, and agreed to come back the next day and move the kayaks for me.

Svalbard Sailing Club

We all had most of our luggage on the dock when we realized that Raphaele wasn't with us! We raced back in and woke her from a sound sleep. I've never seen such speed packing! Just as she got her last bag off the ship our bus arrived to take us and our luggage to the Polarrigen.

Longyearbyen Road

This was the first moment all morning that any of us had had a moment to breath and face the fact that we were leaving our beloved Noorderlicht and her crew. With tight throats, and eyes brimming with tears we said our goodbyes. The crew stood on the dock in front of the Noorderlicht and waved goodbye. No one spoke on the bus. I avoided all eye contact, afraid that a glance from anyone would start the tears again.


Once back at the Polarriggen we unloaded our luggage and went to our rooms. We were all so sad that our adventure at sea was over. Eventually hunger drew some of us out of our rooms. We decided to walk to a "downtown" Longyearbyen cafe for a late lunch. As we were climbing over a hill Ian said, "Look!" The Noorderlicht, with her sails raised was leaving the fjord. It was the most beautiful and saddest sight I think I've ever seen.

During our voyage, whenever Jan was on shore he would call out to the Noorderlicht on his walkie-talkie in a special way - he would sing her name three times. I will always hear that song in my head and my heart.

Here are some shots of my beautiful Noorderlicht.




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